Farmer confidence is at its lowest level since the March 2016 quarter, with many citing central Government policy as the reason for concern, according to the latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey.
Overall net confidence has dropped from -2 per cent in the previous quarter to -33 per cent and the percentage of farmers expecting the rural economy to worsen over the next 12 months has risen by 18 per cent to 43 per cent.
“That’s extraordinary at a time when prices across most farming sectors are up on where they’ve been in recent years. Farmer confidence is now at levels not seen since we were in the grip of the dairy downturn,” Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon said.
“Government policy is identified as the key worry, with a host of measures being introduced that will affect the profitability and viability of farming.”
We have spent the last week in Western Australia with some of the top farmers from both sides of the Tasman.
Some of the Australians are battling drought but the mood among them was generally positive.
The broad acre farming in the Esperance hinterland is very different from New Zealand conditions and systems. We could only wonder how they could grow wheat when they’d had only 150 mms of rain.
The weather in New Zealand hasn’t been causing much concern and markets for everything except strong wool are buoyant, it’s government policies which are driving down farmer confidence here.
The implement this tractor is towing is mulching gum stumps from hundreds of hectares of felled gum trees in preparation for sowing crops and pasture.
That contrasts with New Zealand where many thousands of hectares of productive farmland is being covered with pine trees, with government encouragement and subsidies.
Sixty-eight per cent of farmers with a negative outlook identified government policy, such as freshwater reform and future greenhouse gas obligations, as a primary reason for their concern.
“Farmers are singled out in the Zero Carbon Bill as the only industry not allowed to offset their carbon emissions, while heavy industry and other polluters can. That makes no sense,” Falloon said. . .
Australian farmers had no concerns about being forced into an emissions trading scheme and generally face much more relaxed policies around the environment than those we’re being threatened with.
Farm produce is much less important to the Australian economy than it is to New Zealand’s but their farmers felt better understood and appreciated than ours do.
When we’ve been on trips like this before, we return home thinking it’s easier to farm on our side of the Tasman. But this time we’ve come home thinking that when it comes to government policy, it’s much better for farmers there than here.